Pinto, M., Prise, K. M. and Michael, B. D. A Monte Carlo Model of DNA Double-Strand Break Clustering and Rejoining Kinetics for the Analysis of Pulsed-Field Gel Electrophoresis Data. Radiat. Res. 162, 453–463 (2004).

In studies of radiation-induced DNA fragmentation and repair, analytical models may provide rapid and easy-to-use methods to test simple hypotheses regarding the breakage and rejoining mechanisms involved. The random breakage model, according to which lesions are distributed uniformly and independently of each other along the DNA, has been the model most used to describe spatial distribution of radiation-induced DNA damage. Recently several mechanistic approaches have been proposed that model clustered damage to DNA. In general, such approaches focus on the study of initial radiation-induced DNA damage and repair, without considering the effects of additional (unwanted and unavoidable) fragmentation that may take place during the experimental procedures. While most approaches, including measurement of total DNA mass below a specified value, allow for the occurrence of background experimental damage by means of simple subtractive procedures, a more detailed analysis of DNA fragmentation necessitates a more accurate treatment. We have developed a new, relatively simple model of DNA breakage and the resulting rejoining kinetics of broken fragments. Initial radiation-induced DNA damage is simulated using a clustered breakage approach, with three free parameters: the number of independently located clusters, each containing several DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs), the average number of DSBs within a cluster (multiplicity of the cluster), and the maximum allowed radius within which DSBs belonging to the same cluster are distributed. Random breakage is simulated as a special case of the DSB clustering procedure. When the model is applied to the analysis of DNA fragmentation as measured with pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE), the hypothesis that DSBs in proximity rejoin at a different rate from that of sparse isolated breaks can be tested, since the kinetics of rejoining of fragments of varying size may be followed by means of computer simulations. The problem of how to account for background damage from experimental handling is also carefully considered. We have shown that the conventional procedure of subtracting the background damage from the experimental data may lead to erroneous conclusions during the analysis of both initial fragmentation and DSB rejoining. Despite its relative simplicity, the method presented allows both the quantitative and qualitative description of radiation-induced DNA fragmentation and subsequent rejoining of double-stranded DNA fragments.

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